DySoC logo banner.

Sign Up for Email Updates

DySoC News

Read the latest DySoc Newsletter
DySoC News, October 2018
DySoC News, August 2018
DySoC News, May 2018
DySoC News, April 2018
DySoC News, March 2018


DySoC and NIMBioS continue their seminars series on topics related to social complexity in the Fall 2018 semester. Seminars are held in Hallam Auditorium (Room 206) at NIMBioS at 3:30. Most are also live streamed and recorded.

  – November 12, 2018. Aleydis Van de Moortel (Classics, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville) on Understanding the rise and decline of complex society at prehistoric Mitrou, Greece, through practice theory and human agency
  – January 22, 2019. Oleg Manaev (Political Science, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville) on Reshaping social structure for legitimation of power in resurgent autocracy: the case of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine

See DySoC Seminars for more information.


DySoC/NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Extending the Theory of Sustainability
Meeting dates: December 5-7, 2018
Location: NIMBioS at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
 – Peter Richerson, Environmental Science & Policy, Univ. of California, Davis
 – Eli Fenichel, Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Univ.
 – Sergey Gavrilets, Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity (DySoc)/NIMBioS; Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee

Apply now for the DySoC/NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Mathematics of Gun Violence to be held May 1-3, 2019, at NIMBioS. Deadline to apply: November 30.

See DySoC Workshops for more information.

Separator bar.

New Members

Dr. Chien-fei Chen serves as the Director of Education and Diversity Programs and Research Associate Professor for CURENT. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the department of sociology. Dr. Chen received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University. Her research in social psychology focuses on how the content and structure of social relations are mediated through social norms, networks, interpersonal communication and related psychological factors at both individual and group levels.

Dr. Damian Ruck (PhD, Bristol University, U.K.) joined the Department of Anthropology this fall as a postdoctoral scholar and will also be a member of the NIMBioS DySoc group. Dr. Ruck uses large historical data sets to measure social and cultural change across cultures and nations over historical time. Dr. Ruck's new research, published with Alex Bentley and Daniel Lawson this summer in Science Advances, measures the importance of religion in 109 countries spanning the entire 20th century. This research has reignited an age-old debate around the link between secularization and economic growth. The study, showing that a decline in religion influences a country's future economic prosperity, received prominent media coverage this summer, including the front page of Britain's leading newspaper, The Times.

Dr. Harry Dahms (Sociology, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville). Dr. Dahms is Co-Director, Center for the Study of Social Justice, UTK; Co-Chair, Committee on Social Theory, UTK; Editor, Current Perspectives in Social Theory; Director, International Social Theory Consortium (ISTC); and Affiliated Faculty, University of Innsbruck (Austria). Dr. Dahms research interests are in economic sociology, political economy, and comparative sociology.

Separator bar.

New Courses

Philosophy 640. Mariam Thalos will be teaching a seminar in Spring 2019 on Rational choice and its applications in a variety of social sciences.

EEB/Math 681. Evolution of human distinctiveness: a review of ideas and mathematical models.

Instructor: Sergey Gavrilets
CRN: 43210, Section #1, 3 credit hours
MWF 2:30-3:20
Place: Ayres 122/ Claxton 103

The goal of the course is to expand on the material presented in introductory courses on mathematical modeling in biological, social and cultural evolution to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the rapidly developing theoretical research focusing on human social behavior.

The list of topics to be covered:

  1. Are humans a "uniquely unique species"?
  2. Pair-bonding
  3. Egalitarian preferences and fairness
  4. Cognitive abilities
  5. Language
  6. Coalitions
  7. Cooperation
  8. Conflict
  9. Learning and cultural evolution
  10. Social norms
  11. Social institutions and social complexity

For each topic, we will use at least 3 class periods to:

  • Review ideas and data,
  • Go through an earlier/classical model,
  • Go through a more recent model,
  • Critique and discuss possible generalizations of models.

No tests/exams but a significant amount of reading. Student-led discussions. A possibility for a project and/or publication.

Separator bar.

Recent/Upcoming Talks:

  • Nina Fefferman gave a plenary talk at SIAM Life Sciences in August on "Linking Local Decisions with Global Outcomes in Networks" – much of which focused on the multilevel selective pressures on the evolution of social behaviors.
  • Sergey Gavrilets gave a plenary talk at the 9th Moscow International Conference on Operations Research in October on "The evolution of social norm internalization"
  • Mariam Phalos gave talks at APA Eastern Division symposium on her book "A Social Theory" and on "Disaggregating goods: The power of futility" at Cambridge University CamPos and HPS colloquium series.
  • Oleg Manaev will make presentation "Impact of Russian Media on the Countries in the East Slavic Triangle" at the 50th Annual Convention of Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), which will take place in Boston on December 6-9.

Separator bar.

Recent Papers:

O'Brien MJ, Bentley RA. 2018. Dual inheritance, cultural transmission, and niche construction. IN The Handbook of Culture and Biology (J Causadilas, EH Teller, NA Gonzales, eds.): 179-202.

Lucas JR, Gentry KE, Sieving KE, Freeberg TM. (In Press 2018). Communication as a fundamental piece of the Machiavellian Intelligence puzzle. To appear in Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Brooks HZ, Hohn ME, Price CR, Radunskaya AE, Sindi SS, Williams ND, Wilson SN, Fefferman NH. 2018. Mathematical analysis of the impact of social structure on ectoparasite load in allogrooming Populations. IN Understanding Complex Biological Systems with Mathematics, pp. 47-61. Springer, Cham, 2018.

Williams ND, Brooks HZ, Hohn ME, Price CR, Radunskaya AE, Sindi SS, Wilson SN, Fefferman NH. 2018. How disease risks can impact the evolution of social behaviors and emergent population organization. IN Understanding Complex Biological Systems with Mathematics, pp. 31-46. Springer, Cham.

Moseley DL, Derryberry GE, Phillips JN, Danner JE, Danner RM, Luther DA, Derryberry EP. 2018. Acoustic adaptation to city noise through vocal learning by a songbird. Proc. R. Soc. B 285:20181356.

Thalos, M. 2018. Dirty hands: The phenomenology of acting as an authorized agent. Monist 101:2.

Separator bar.

Recent grants

  • Brandon Prins:
    • Oak Ridge National Laboratory University Engagement for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards Courses at the University of Tennessee, Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy. $28,000 from DOE - ORNL - UT-Battelle - Oak Ridge National Laboratory for Baker Center.
    • Peacebuilding in conflict & post-conflict societies. $8,528 from International Studies Association to Baker Center.
  • Sergey Gavrilets has received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation entitled "Dynamic Models for Basic Theory and Applications in Cultural Evolution" ($234K). The grant's goal is to organize and develop web-based educational materials on dynamic modeling for graduate students and post-docs from across the social sciences, as well as a textbook/review aimed at applying methods of the dynamical systems theory to the evolution of institutions, a topic bringing together many basic and applied issues in cultural evolution. These activities will lay the groundwork for a social scientific paradigm shift, and can provide policy tools by which we might humanely direct our own evolution.
  • March 2018 – Sergey Gavrilets was awarded a 3-year Minerva grant (DOD) to study Integrating structural theories of revolution with evolutionary models to predict societal resilience and (in)stability.
  • January 2018 – Garriy Shteynberg was awarded a 3-year NSF grant to study Social bases of attitudinal extremetization: Shared attention versus attitudinal simulation.

Separator bar.

Press releases

Contact DySoC
Sergey Gavrilets, Director
403B Austin Peay
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-8136
FAX: (865) 974-3067 Email
Website: http://www.dysoc.org

©2018 Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity. All rights reserved.